Gold: Vin Scully got his start in college football before becoming Dodgers icon
The first person I called was my dad.
“I know,” he said with a sigh. “I heard.”
And then he told me a story about Vin Scully, familiar to seven decades worth of people.
“You know your grandfather was a Dodger fan from when they were back in Brooklyn?” he asked. Yes, I knew. “I used to sneak a radio under my sheets and listen to Dodger games when I was a kid. That must’ve been 65 years ago.”
How many fathers are telling their sons that story tonight? How many grandfathers are telling their grandsons?
Scully died on Tuesday night at the age of 94, the Dodgers announced. Microphones all over the sports worlds are silent.
Scully was a baseball ambassador and a Los Angeles icon, but he could’ve been the voice of college football.
On this day in 1949 at Fenway Park, Vin Scully makes his professional debut. A College Football game: Maryland-B.U. pic.twitter.com/NsiAUhhIwd
— Vin Scully (@VinScullyTweet) November 13, 2013
Although his start was inauspicious.
“There was a show called Football Roundup where CBS did four games. Not simultaneously, of course, but almost. They bounced from game to game. I think it was a newspaperman from Chicago was going to do one of the games. It was the North Carolina-Notre Dame game in Yankee Stadium. He fell ill. Ernie Harwell was transferred to do that game. I came home and my red-haired, very excitable Irish mother said, ‘Oh Vinny, you’ll never guess who called.’ I said, ‘Who Honey?’ And she said, ‘Red Skelton.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t think so. Red Barber?’
“Anyway, he said we want you to do this football game. Boston University and Maryland. Harry Agganis, who played a little first base for the Sox later, was the quarterback for BU. Being a young kid thinking ‘I’m going to be a network broadcaster, I’ll have a beautiful booth, I don’t need my hat or coat or gloves, it’s November,’ so I get there — there’s no booth. The engineer is sitting there on the 50-yard line on the roof of Fenway, where they rearranged it up there. He’s got a card table.
“He’s got his equipment on there and 50 yards of cable. I was doing the game, as the teams went up and down, I would go up and down on the roof with the microphone. I never mentioned anything except the game. Our game became a terrific game. I think Maryland won by two points. They were the favorites. The Notre Dame-North Carolina game, Charlie Justice was an All-American. He was hurt. Notre Dame won easily, so they spent all the time with my game. When it was over, I was so cold, so unhappy. I thought I had this great break. I thought I blew it because I was unprepared for that. On Monday, Red got a call apologizing for putting his announcer under those conditions.”
“Now, let’s say what was a very, very ordinary job, suddenly in Red’s mind was OK. ‘That kid never complained, never said anything.’ So he called me, said it was kind of tough. I said, ‘yessir, it was a bad day.’ He said, ‘don’t worry, you’ll have a booth next week. You’re doing Harvard-Yale.’ Wow. That was that. Then later, Ernie Harwell left. Red thought instead of hiring a professional, I’m going to take that kid. I’m going to see if I can make him a reasonably successful broadcaster.
“He had red hair. I had red hair. Years later, he wrote that I might have been the son he never had. There was a blessing in there somewhere. I went to spring training with the Dodgers, and 64 years later here I am. That’s the way it’s worked out.”
It sure worked out for Los Angeles, and for kids like me.
Forty years after my dad listened to Brooklyn Dodger games under his covers, I listened to Los Angeles Dodger games under mine. Imagine, Vin Scully and Chick Hearn. One city. We were too lucky. No one deserves that.
Chick and Vin 😔 pic.twitter.com/r0iSykLTB3
— Bryce Lokus (@BryceLokus) August 3, 2022
In reality, though, Scully spanned two cities and the country, and with it, the world.
Red Barber had apparently seen something in the kid.
In 1950, a 23-year Scully joined Barber and Connie Desmond as Brooklyn’s announcing team. Four years later, when Barber joined the Yankees, Scully became the voice of the Dodgers. Three years later, they broke the hearts of a million kids and moved out west. Commercial air travel was now a reality, and the country was connected like never before. Scully united the Big Apple and TinselTown. He was the voice of two coasts.
For so many generations, Scully was the sound of baseball. Dulcet, calm, always steady. Grass, hot dogs, ambient noise. He knew when to talk and he knew when to let baseball speak for him.
When he retired in 2016, he was feted by the Los Angeles community. He remains beloved. He always will be.
A decade ago, for no reason other than I realized one day that there would be a Dodger game without Vin Scully, I wrote a little ode to him. I was able to dig it up today. This was written four years before he retired, but it feels relevant today.
An Ode to Vin
“There soon will come a day,
When the familiar voice has faded,
Whisked away by the oceans of time.
And it matters little now,
How it’s been anticipated,
It will still be stolen from us, a pity if not a crime.
For a game without Vin,
Is a tire without air,
Flat, not a second of fun.
And yet we know,
That time soon upon us,
Fear not, it has not yet come.
The time we have left,
Take not for granted the days that soon end,
Go turn on the radio,
And tune it just right,
For the moment, no need to pretend.
That voice will be gone someday,
Though we shudder at the thought,
Still there in our hearts and in our minds.
It is etched into our memory,
No chance to be forgot,
Forever the tie that binds.
That voice has been with us,
Through Pee Wee and Jackie,
Through Sandy and Duke and Don,
Through Campy and Maury,
And Podres and Garvey,
The list goes forever on.
Through Russell and Cey,
Lopes and Baker,
Through Orel, Fernando, both Saxes.
Though Sutton and Marshall,
And Scioscia and Gibby,
In life, there’s Vin Scully, death and taxes.
Through Nomo and Mondesi,
Piazza and Karros,
Through Gagne, Lo Duca and Green.
Through Manny and Ethier,
Kemp and Kershaw,
Does he know what he means to this team?
He has been there with us,
For ballgames, yes,
And for that,
We eternally thank him.
But he’s been there for so much more than that,
His presence never forsaken.
He’s been with us in birth,
And also in death,
Through happiness, and through the tears.
Through three generations,
And two cities,
Two stadiums, 63 years.
Soon we will bid farewell to him,
Though we know him as Vin,
That voice will live on,
It will echo forever,
In every Dodger loss and every Dodger win.”